Home > Uncategorized > William Morris: Protecting the strong from the weak, selling each other weapons to kill their own countrymen

William Morris: Protecting the strong from the weak, selling each other weapons to kill their own countrymen

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

William Morris: No man knew the sight of blood

William Morris: War abroad but no peace at home

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William Morris
From News From Nowhere (1892)

(Hammond) [F]or what other purpose than the protection of the rich from the poor, the strong from the weak, did this Government exist?

(I) I have heard that it was said that their office was to defend their own citizens against attack from other countries.

(H.) It was said; but was any one expected to believe this? For instance, did the English Government defend the English citizen against the French?

(I) So it was said.

(H.) Then if the French had invaded England and conquered it, they would not have allowed the English workmen to live well?

(I, laughing) As far as I can make out, the English masters of the English workmen saw to that: they took from their workmen as much of their livelihood as they dared, because they wanted it for themselves.

(H.) But if the French had conquered, would they not have taken more still from the English workmen?

(I) I do not think so; for in that case the English workmen would have died of starvation; and then the French conquest would have ruined the French, just as if the English horses and cattle had died of under-feeding. So that after all, the English workmen would have been no worse off for the conquest: their French masters could have got no more from them than their English masters did.

(H.) This is true; and we may admit that the pretensions of the government to defend the poor (i.e. the useful) people against other countries come to nothing. But that is but natural; for we have seen already that it was the function of the government to protect the rich against the poor. But did not the government defend its rich men against other nations?

(I) I do not remember to have heard that the rich needed defence; because it is said that even when two nations were at war, the rich men of each nation gambled with each other pretty much as usual, and even sold each other weapons wherewith to kill their own countrymen.

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Said I: “How about your relations with foreign nations?”

“I will not affect not to know what you mean,” said he, “but I will tell you at once that the whole system of rival and contending nations which played so great a part in the `government’ of the world of civilisation has disappeared along with the inequality betwixt man and man in society.”

“Does not that make the world duller?” said I.

“Why?” said the old man.

“The obliteration of national variety,” said I.

“Nonsense,” he said, somewhat snappishly. “Cross the water and see. You will find plenty of variety: the landscape the building, the diet, the amusements, all various. The men and women varying in looks as well as in habits of thought; the costume more various than in the commercial period. How should it add to the variety or dispel the dulness, to coerce certain families or tribes, often heterogeneous and jarring with one another into certain artificial and mechanical groups and call them nations, and stimulate their patriotism – i.e., their foolish and envious prejudices?”

“Well – I don’t know how,” said I.

“That’s right,” said Hammond cheerily; “you can easily understand that now we are freed from this folly it is obvious to us that by means of this very diversity the different strains of blood in the world can be serviceable and pleasant to each other, without in the least wanting to rob each other: we are all bent on the same enterprise, making the most of our lives. And I must tell you whatever quarrels or misunderstandings arise, they very seldom take place between people of different race; and consequently since there is less unreason in them, they are the more readily appeased.”

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